Park ‘Colluded’ in Influence-Peddling, Korea Prosecutor Says

  • Mass rally at weekend demanded president resign over scandal
  • Park seeks more time to prepare for defense in questioning

President Park Geun-hye colluded with her former aides in an influence-peddling case that included undue pressure on South Korean corporations to raise tens of millions of dollars for foundations controlled by her friend, a South Korean prosecutor said Sunday.

Prosecutors have secured enough evidence to believe Park played a role when her friend, Choi Soon-sil, allegedly extracted money from some of the country’s biggest companies and gained access to classified information, including presidential speeches and evaluations of cabinet candidates, Lee Young-ryeol, the head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, said at a televised briefing.

Lee gave the briefing after indicting Choi and two former presidential secretaries on charges including the abuse of power. Park is the first South Korean president to be targeted as a suspect in a corruption investigation while in office.

Park has apologized twice to the nation for consulting Choi, which sparked allegations that her friend meddled in state affairs extensively for personal gain. Park has asked for more time to prepare for her defense. Her approval rating has dropped to 5 percent, according to Gallup Korea.

Nationwide Campaign

Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered near the presidential compound in the past two weeks to demand Park’s resignation and arrest. Moon Jae-in, the front-runner in public opinion polls on presidential candidates, said last week he’ll run a nationwide campaign to push Park out.

“Park should step down,” the People’s Party, the second-largest opposition party, said by text message. “Park’s collusion and her status as a criminal suspect for the prosecutors’ investigation meet the requirement for impeachment.”

If Park was to resign, an election would have to be held within 60 days.

Despite the growing calls for her removal, Park has shown few signs she’d step down any time soon. This month she resumed official duties including making appointments to government offices and naming new ambassadors. On Friday, the presidential office reaffirmed plans for Park to attend a summit with China and Japan in Tokyo next month.

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